Committee Note May 2018
We are stronger together!
Wednesday May 9, 2018
A few hours into the second day of Spring, a terrible accident took place on our school playground.
Our community responded with tremendous empathy for the child and meaningful actions and wishes of support for the family. Parents remain active in supporting our Vineyard family. (Anyone wishing to join in helping out is welcome to send an email to email@example.com)
The accident understandably affected the mood of our school and our community remains fragile. As detailed in an email last week from the school, there are a number of support mechanisms in place for those in need.
In focusing on support of the family and to leave space for school communications around the accident, the PTA suspended activities, meetings and reduced communication to a bare minimum until last week.
Over the last week, a small group of parents raised serious questions about the functioning of the PTA via the WhatsApp Class reps Group and over email.
As the leaders of a charitable organisation, we take any concerns about the functioning of the organisation extremely seriously.
As believers in transparency, we do not want their concerns and our responses relegated to a side channel available only to a small number of parents. For that reason we respond to them here on the vineyardpta.org website. (A parent volunteer created this website specifically to support transparency about our PTA.)
The ideal outcome from this - and all PTA-related exchanges - is that parents feel more empowered to support The Vineyard School.
Our children’s school is wonderful in so many ways, but there is much more we can do.
Specific concerns the parents raised this weekend were around:
- Meeting minutes
- The allocation of PTA funds
- Recent physical changes to the school and values workshops at the school
Role of the PTA
For clarity on the role of the PTA, we invite parents to look at the welcome page of vineyardpta.org, where we have shared about the narrow roles played by the PTA. The PTA’s role is to develop effective relationships between the staff, parents and others associated with the school; Engaging in activities or providing facilities or equipment which support the school and advance the education of the pupils.
We get a tremendous turnout for parent volunteers at events and other school needs.
Indeed, last Monday’s appeal for a week of library volunteers nearly filled the roster for one month! Thank you!
Unfortunately this (and every) PTA struggles to find parent volunteers for core support functions, such as taking minutes, composing oversight committees and leading events.
We fully agree with the concerned parents that our organisation has many shortcomings and could be run much better.
To improve, the PTA requires more participation, which is why we continually invite participation and engagement.
Perhaps these issues could have been addressed earlier if there were more PTA communication. That said, PTA communications dropped off significantly since our weekly newsletter stopped due to our hard working editor and secretary going back to full time work.
Would restarting the newsletter help and are there any parents inspired to take on that role? Is there a parent inspired to serve as community connector, finding and connecting parents with shared concerns in order to solve them? Is there another role that would help? We are open to all ideas!
To reassure the parents who have been emailing and WhatsApp-ing around the important issues of PTA management, we invite them to lead the elements and processes about which they have raised justifiable concern:
1- Meeting minutes:
Concern: Some of the parents expressed concern that the PTA is failing to meet its legal obligations as a charity by not posting written minutes of each meeting.
Our challenge is that no parent has volunteered yet to be secretary.
We asked for someone to take minutes at the AGM, but unfortunately no parent came forward. As a result, one of our hard-working treasurers doubled up to be secretary for the written AGM minutes needed for the Charities Commission.
In the election, no parent would stand for secretary, leaving our PTA with the bare minimum of three treasurers and a chair.
Given the absence of a secretary, we only have written minutes done by our treasurer for the AGM. (We have sought out and posted on the PTA website all minutes we have found from PTA meetings in previous years.)
That said, our we have full audio and video recordings of every PTA meeting held since the start of this school year accessible via the Minutes Archive on vineyardpta.org.
For written minutes, we can use the money donated by parents to pay a transcription service.
Alternately, we invite parents requesting written minutes to help us transcribe past recordings or consider taking on/sharing the role as PTA secretary. Please join us!
2- Allocation of PTA funds
Concern: Will the PTA funds be well spent?
We fully support the parents scrutinising the spending of PTA money and welcome close oversight of our precious and hard-earned donations.
We invite the parents who raised the issue (along with other parents interested) to lead the prioritisation process for spending PTA funds.
This is a fairly simple task.
First, the school should be asked to provide a “priority wish list”.
The school’s list, along with proposals raised at the AGM and proposals brought directly to the committee should then be scored against the criteria on the PTA website by our community’s four key stakeholder groups: Parent representatives from each year group, staff, the school administration and board of governors.
Based on that, input the funding committee can present their priority list to the PTA committee for formal approval.
A fair, open and transparent process that engages the full community will ensure the benefits are shared across the school for everyone to benefit.
The process last year was a great success, so that could be repeated or the interested parents could propose a process from the PTA UK website. (As a side note, the PTA UK website is an excellent resource that we invite every parent to join. We have a membership allowing free access to all parents, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will sign you up)
Below this note, the PTA committee has posted a deeper response to some questions raised by one parent.
3 - Values workshops, physical changes to the school, including the recent expansion of the library:
To clarify for parents about physical changes to the school and values workshops, these have all been planned and done by the Board of Governors and The Vineyard School leadership without involvement of the PTA or parents yet.
To be absolutely clear, everything we know about the changes were detailed by Mrs. Whymark in public at the AGM. (AGM minutes and video available via Vineyardpta.org). The school has said that parents will soon be invited directly into the process.
We are all stronger together!
Thomas Crampton, Chair, The Vineyard School PTA
Ed Forbes, co-Treasurer The Vineyard School PTA
Dhruv Menon, co-Treasurer, The Vineyard School PTA
Evelyn Yung, co-treasurer The Vineyard School PTA
REPLY FROM THE PTA COMMITTEE TO CONCERNS RAISED BY EMAIL FROM PARENT (FULL EMAIL BELOW)
· We didn’t read the statement on the website in the same way but agree on re-reading that it may be (unintentionally) misleading so we can make clear that funds belong to the PTA charity and are disbursed, on priorities guided by the school, after approval by the PTA committee who will provide full opportunity for parents to propose project and contribute to the final recommendations.
· There are minutes to the AGM on 22 Feb which are available at this link: https://site.vineyardpta.org/welcome/pta-minutes-archive
· Aside from election of the trustees, the only decision taken at the last AGM was that a sub-group would evaluate all the funding proposals using the scoring criteria laid out on the website (used in previous years) and report back to the committee.
· Since that meeting there has been no significant spending aside from expenses relating to the skating event (more than offset by takings/sponsorship)
· No spending commitments beyond the prior year carry overs of £20k for Early Learning Garden and £7k for library (as laid out in our Charities Commission filing for 2016/17) have been
approved by the PTA. The library project planning continues but everything done so far has been at zero expense incurred by the PTA.
· The PTA committee take our role as trustees seriously. We would not allow any significant disbursement without due scrutiny or without transparency on how the decision was made.
EMAIL FROM PARENT SENT TO PTA ON APRIL 29, 2018
I just came across this [Email from Feb 22, 2018 included below]. I must have missed it first time around, apologies.
I just wanted to correct you on your email where it states 'there is no such thing as PTA money.....the money belongs collectively to the school....'
This is actually incorrect. I'm sure you know that the Vineyard PTA is a registered charity and so legally the school and the PTA are two completely separate entities. The funds the PTA raise belong to the PTA and NOT to the school and the head cannot dictate how the funds are spent. Will it be possible for you to make a correction?
I'm also aware that the committee (in line with the PTA UK constitution) has an obligation to provide minutes after each meeting, which have traditionally been circulated at the following meeting to allow members to see that the documenting of facts is a fair reflection of what was discussed/agreed. Can you advise if this has been followed at the last few meetings? As I have been following meetings on fb recently and not attended in person and the screening is often not that clear, I have not been able to see if this has occurred. Please advise.
Email sent by PTA on Feb 22, 2017
SUBJECT: There is no PTA money...
Given the hard work and generosity of so many parents, it is natural to wonder what happens to the money raised.
The first thing to make clear is that there is no such thing as “PTA money”.
The money raised belongs collectively to the school to be used in the manner they think - working in consultation with the parents, staff and governing body - will best support our children’s education.
In preparation for the AGM tonight (Thursday), our Vineyard PTA website now has a page on "How parent money is spent".
This is a page in progress to make the distribution of the funds you raised and donated as clear as possible to all parents:
Our latest treasurers' report is here:
Draft agenda for the meeting:
- Election of officers (co-chairs, co-treasurers)
- Update on Library Project
- Funding priorities discussion
-- Ideas from school, parents, board of governors and pupils
We have a few parent funding suggestions that will be shared: Music, sports uniforms and library promotion.
More suggestions welcome, though do look at the funding priorities page for how to structure ideas/thoughts.
We will go as far as we can on Thursday evening, but we do not expect to finalise priorities.
This is the beginning of a conversation we need to have as a community about how we want to invest our hard-earned funds.
As ever, comments and suggestions welcome!
Join tonight's meeting via livestream at https://www.facebook.com/TheVineyardPTA/